Honda to go all-in on EVs, fuel cells by 2040

TOKYO — Honda will phase out internal combustion engines in all new automobiles by 2040 under an aggressive electrification plan unveiled by Toshihiro Mibe, the automaker’s new CEO.

Mibe, who took office April 1, outlined the new target in a news conference on Friday, pitching it as a step toward achieving companywide carbon neutrality by 2050.

Honda will achieve the goal in steps, first deriving 40 percent of its sales in major markets from pure electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in 2030. It wants that share of EVs and fuel cells to reach 80 percent in major markets in 2035, and then 100 percent in all markets by 2040.

Japan’s No. 3 automaker also set out lofty 2050 goals of achieving carbon neutrality in all products and corporate activities and of realizing zero traffic fatalities in its motorcycles and automobiles. It also wants to develop products from 100 percent sustainable materials.

“The hurdles are quite high,” said Mibe, who was formally head of Honda’s R&D division. “But I think we can get them. The fact that we have set targets clearly is the first step toward that goal.”

A centerpiece of the plan is the ambitious electrification roadmap. Honda, a company which helped pioneer gasoline-electric hybrid technology, currently sells only one EV, the low-volume small Honda e hatchback.

The company had previously wanted to derive two-thirds of its global volume from standard hybrids, plug-in hybrids, battery-electric cars and fuel cell vehicles by 2030.

Now, it targets 40 percent from just pure EVs and fuel cells by that year.

Mibe said breakthroughs in battery technology will be important to making good on the push to completely phase out traditional combustion and gasoline-electric hybrids by 2040.

Among those innovations will be solid-state batteries. Honda will start verifying production of solid-state batteries on a demonstration line this fiscal year, Mibe said. The company plans to deploy solid-state batteries in new models from the second half of the 2020s.

“The battery will be the key,” Mibe said.

Also in the second half of this decade, Honda will roll out a new dedicated electric vehicle platform called e:Architecture. It will first be deployed in North America, then globally.

North America figures prominently in Honda’s electrification plan, even though the Honda brand sells only a handful of hybrid vehicles there, including the CR-V, Accord and Insight.

Mirroring its global goals, Honda targets an EV-fuel cell sales ratio in North America of 40 percent in 2030, 80 percent in 2035 and 100 percent by 2040. A partnership with General Motors will help Honda get there by supplying Honda with two large-size EVs for the 2024 model year.

One of those models will be for the Honda brand, one for Acura, Mibe said.

Mibe outlined similar timelines for China and Japan but did not detail plans for Europe.

The new Honda boss declined to offer an overall long-range volume target, saying that the goal was good product and profitability, not sales numbers. But he said that Honda wants to achieve sustainable operating profit margin of 7 percent, even with the shift to electrification.

Mibe conceded his company has not figured out exactly how to reach its targets. But with hard work and technological innovation, he said, they are achievable. To support the drive, he noted, Honda will invest 5 trillion yen ($46.29 billion) in R&D over the next six years.

“We don’t have the best solution yet,” he said. “But we will make great efforts.”

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